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Daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday

Even after his torrid stretch at the plate, Kendrys Morales remains available in just about half of ESPN leagues. Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There are short slates, and then there are really short slates. Unfortunately, this Thursday falls into the latter. With only four games on the docket, streaming options are awfully slim, so not every matchup highlighted below is ideal ... or even all that favorable.

As always, we'll make the best of it.

Here are the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.


Pitching

Pitchers to stream

Luis Castillo (R), rostered in 40 percent of ESPN leagues, Cincinnati Reds vs. San Diego Padres: Castillo's 2018 campaign has been defined by his inconsistency. Here's a look at his ERAs by month: April: 7.23; May: 3.48; June: 6.75; July 2.25; August 5.57. If his last start was any indication, however, he looks poised to finish strong. Castillo opened September with 6 2/3 shutout innings against St. Louis with 11 K's. Most importantly, he draws a prime matchup on Thursday against San Diego. Not only do the Padres sport the second-highest strikeout rate in baseball (25.3 percent), but they rank 26th in ISO (.142), 27th in wRC+ (85), and 30th in wOBA (.292). Castillo is a good bet to flirt with his second straight double-digit strikeout performance in this spot.

Shane Bieber (R), 38 percent, Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays: It's hard to get past Bieber's 4.66 ERA, but the skills are still worth betting on. He's striking out more than a batter per inning (9.2 K/9), his 1.6 BB/9 is elite, and his inflated .373 BABIP and a low 67.9 percent strand rate suggest he's been the victim of bad luck. The rookie should experience some positive regression soon. On Thursday, Bieber matches up with a Blue Jays squad that's dropped seven of its past nine.

Anibal Sanchez (R), 37 percent, Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks: One of this season's more pleasant surprises, Sanchez just continues to get the job done. Dating back to June 1, the veteran right-hander holds a 2.98 ERA with a 9.0 K/9 over 16 starts. Sanchez has made 20 starts this season and not once has he allowed more than four runs in an outing, showing the type of high floor that fantasy managers covet when streaming starters. He gets a tough draw against Zack Greinke, but Arizona's offense has been stuck in neutral over the last month with an 84 wRC+ that ranks 25th in MLB.

Projected game scores


Hitting

Catcher

Tucker Barnhart (B), 43 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Eric Lauer): Barnhart has punished lefty pitching this season, producing a .313/.424/.434 slash line against them. He's also thrived at Great American Ballpark, where he holds an .855 OPS (.583 road OPS). Lauer, meanwhile, has been awfully generous to righty batters in 2018 (.293/.368/.462).

First base

Yonder Alonso (L), 44 percent, Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Sam Gaviglio): While Alonso is batting just .214 since the break, he's making the most of those hits, as he's popped nine homers in just 40 second-half games. Eighteen of his 22 homers this season have come against right-handed pitching. For his part, Gaviglio has not been able to get lefty batters out consistently, surrendering a .291/.347/.486 slash line.

Second base

Ian Happ (B), 29 percent, Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals (RHP Stephen Strasburg): Strasburg's velocity hasn't bounced all the way back since he returned from the DL, which makes him vulnerable in a tough matchup against the Cubs. While Happ is an inconsistent fantasy option, he's got pop, gets on base, and can steal the occasional base. With an .825 OPS against right-handed pitching this season, he's an interesting streamer in this matchup.

Third base

Johan Camargo (B), 40 percent, Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zack Greinke): Greinke represents the worst hitting matchup of the day, but with only four games on the slate, it's not as crazy as it sounds. Camargo is batting .323/.376/.513 since the All-Star break, and Greinke has looked human of late, allowing five homers over his last four starts.

Shortstop

Luis Urias (R), 9 percent, San Diego Padres at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Luis Castillo): Urias, who batted .296/.398/.447 at Triple-A, hasn't made much noise since joining the Padres a week ago, but he's still a name worth paying attention to. On Thursday, he gets a big park upgrade going to Great American Ballpark, and Castillo is a pitcher that can be exploited when he's off his game - which has been frequently this season.

Corner infield

Kendrys Morales (B), 51 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Shane Bieber): Morales has been on an absolute tear of late. Over the last two weeks, he's batting .308/.349/.846 with seven homers. While Bieber is one of the day's better streaming options, the fact that he's around the plate so much and is allowing so much hard contact (45.1 percent) could get him into trouble here.

Middle infield

Wilmer Difo (B), 2 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): Squaring off against Hendricks isn't necessarily a great spot for Difo, but there are still things to like here. Not only is Difo batting .306/.360/.471 at home this season, but he's been heating up of late, whacking two homers in his last three games.

Outfield

Phillip Ervin (R), 4 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Eric Lauer): It's a small sample, but Ervin has pummeled lefties to the tune of a .308/.378/.513 slash line this season. He also cracked four homers in August with three stolen bases, showcasing a nice power/speed combo. Ervin should continue his lefty-mashing ways against Lauer, who is allowing a .357 wOBA to right-handed batters.

Randal Grichuk (R), 11 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Shane Bieber): The fact that Bieber is a strike-throwing machine should suit Grichuk just fine, as he doesn't walk much anyway. Since the break, the Toronto outfielder is batting .293/.344/.551 with eight homers in 38 games. Grichuk is a good bet to do some damage here if Bieber spends too much time in the heart of the plate.

Steven Souza Jr. (R), 10 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Anibal Sanchez): Like Grichuk, Souza is an all-or-nothing slugger who brings power upside but also inconsistency. What Souza has going for him is that he's much more adept at getting on base and has double-digit steals potential, which helps him provide value even when he's not doing much damage with the bat. While Sanchez has been very effective this season, he's actually been more vulnerable to right-handed bats.

Hitter matchup ratings

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth), as well as ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. For example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.